Five engine tests were conducted to definitely establish the failure mechanism of leading-edge cracking and to determine which conditions of engine operation cause the failures. Five groups of S-616 and M-252 buckets from master lots were run consecutively in the same J47-25 engine. The tests included a steady-state run at full-power conditions, rapid cycling between idle and rated speed, and three different start-stop tests. The first start-stop test consisted of cycles of start and stop with 5 minutes of idle speed before each stop; the second included cycles of start and stop but with 15 minutes of rated speed before each stop; the third consisted of cycles of gradual starts and normal stops with 5 minutes at idle speed before each stop. The test results demonstrated that the primary cause of leading-edge cracking was thermal fatigue produced by repeated engine starts. The leading edge of the bucket experiences plastic flow in compression during starts and consequently is subjected to a tensile stress when the remainder of the bucket becomes heated and expands. Crack initiation was accelerated when rated-speed operation was added to each normal start-stop cycle. This acceleration of crack formation was attributed to localized creep damage and perhaps to embrittlement resulting from overaging. It was demonstrated that leading-edge cracking can be prevented simply by starting the engine gradually.